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So, What's Work Like Now?

Impactful communication hinges on knowing what your employees really need.

I once asked a graphic designer how to draw people. 

She suggested I work on my personality.

This little joke highlights the false beliefs of two characters. What I wanted help with was quite different than what the designer thought I needed help with. 

This same kind of disconnect can happen when you’re writing content and communications for your employees. You make assumptions about what you think the audience needs, and you create the content based on those assumptions. But, if your organization had to shift suddenly this year in response to the pandemic and lockdowns, your previous assumptions about your employees might need a reboot.

To create good content and communications, you should try to see the world as the audience sees it. It can help to know their goals, their feelings and what they’re experiencing at that moment. Psychologists refer to this as having a theory of mind.

To create good content and communications, you should try to see the world as the audience sees it. It can help to know their goals, their feelings and what they’re experiencing at that moment.

Journey mapping is one technique for getting inside your audience’s head and understanding their needs based on what work is like for them now.

Understand Your Audience’s Journey

We aren’t born knowing others have desires, beliefs and knowledge different from our own. We learn this as children and it deteriorates with age. When it comes to writing content and communications, we have the additional challenge of forming a theory of mind for many different people who might be arriving at a similar point in a journey from different paths and with different objectives.

A journey map is a visualization of the process that an employee goes through to accomplish a goal. It’s used for understanding and addressing the employee’s needs and pain points.

A journey map might start as a simple checklist. But, depending on the process, a list might not be enough. You might need to augment your list with additional detail, including any people, tools or other information the employee might need or come in contact with along their way to achieving their goal.  

The resulting map should be thought of as a living document, a snapshot you review occasionally to hunt down pain points and make improvements. Having a journey mapped can also help you assess the impact of proposed process changes. 

Here’s a journey map we created at Smith to help us manage one of our larger partnerships. (We can’t share the name of this client on our website, so we’ve scrubbed out some of the detail.) This map started out as a simple to-do list 10 years ago. But, as the number of projects, processes and people involved grew, we needed a 30,000-foot view so we could delegate tasks, develop training and find efficiencies. A map like this might help you improve a variety of processes, such as performance management, annual enrollment, onboarding and more.

Let’s Connect

Do you use journey maps? Share your story with us. If you’d like some help creating employee content and communications, we’d love to hear from you.

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Physical, Financial and ...

Communicating a holistic approach to well-being

Even before COVID-19, employees were struggling to navigate our “always-on” work-life world. Lockdowns and worksite closings have only made it worse. If burnout, stress, and illnesses are taking a toll on your organization, supporting your employees’ total well-being can have a real impact on their productivity, engagement, and loyalty. 

How organizations communicate their commitment to employee well-being is varied and unique — as it should be. If you’re trying to get your arms around the concept of total or holistic well-being, here are some questions you might want to consider.

What is “well-being”?

There’s not a generally agreed upon or scientific answer to this question. But here’s a simple definition you can start with: Well-being is a positive and meaningful perception that one’s life is going well. Easy enough!

What is a “holistic model for well-being” when it comes to employee benefits and the workplace?

At Smith, we think it means designing an overall employee experience that helps employees manage the wide range of issues and concerns they face and ultimately feel more protected, secure, and cared for. Sound unwieldy?

What are the components of holistic well-being?

Because there are so many issues and concerns that can affect one’s well-being, it can be helpful to categorize them. Following are a gathering of various components of well-being, their basic definitions, and examples of employee benefits and programs within each. In our experience, it is unusual for any single employer to use all of these various components. It’s more common for an organization to consolidate these various categories into a smaller, memorable set of three, four, or five. 

Many factors lead to well-being in the workplace.
ComponentDefinitionBenefit Examples
CommunityConnectedness to and participation in one’s
community; good citizenship; availability of
support and strong, functioning social networks
Corporate matching gifts
Support for volunteerism
Time off for voting
Political action committees
Environmental  Good stewardship of natural resources;
respect for surroundings; making connections
between the physical environment
and personal health
Recycling programs
Healthy working environments
Ergonomic work stations
Waste reduction campaigns
FamilyHaving strong and positive marital,
parental, sibling, intergenerational,
and other familial ties
Paid parental leave
Family and medical leave
Adoption/surrogacy reimbursement
Reproductive assistance benefits
Pre-natal and parental coaching
Employee assistance program
Pet insurance
Back-up care
Dependent care flexible spending account
FinancialA sense of security that comes from
feeling one has enough money
to meet their personal and family needs
Retirement programs
Health savings account
Flexible spending accounts
Life and AD&D insurance
Disability insurance
Business travel accident insurance
Financial counseling/planning
Paid leave benefits
Voluntary insurance programs (critical illness, hospital indemnity, cancer)
Identity theft protection/insurance
Subsidized care options
Prepaid legal plans
Intellectual Cherishing mental growth and stimulation;
having an open mind about new ideas;
seeking ways to expand knowledge and skills;
engaging in creative mental activities;
exploring one’s own potential;
sharing one’s abilities within the community
Training
Mentoring
Job rotation
Temporary assignments
Student loan benefit
MentalHaving thoughts, moods, and behaviors
that allow a person to realize their
own potential, cope with the normal
stresses of life, work productively, and
make a contribution to the community 
Employee assistance program 
Counseling/therapy benefits
Vacation, personal days, paid time off
Flexible work arrangements
Occupational  Making use of one’s skills and talents
to gain purpose, happiness, and
enrichment; ability to achieve a
healthy work-life balance,
manage workplace stress, and
build relationships with bosses
and coworkers; integrating a
commitment to one’s occupation
into a satisfying and rewarding lifestyle
Training/development
Mentoring
Student loan benefit
Service awards
Rewards and recognition
Career support/development
Performance management 
PhysicalAbility to live a lifestyle that is
not hindered by illness or injury;
making behavior choices to
ensure health and avoid
preventable diseases and conditions
Medical
Prescription drug
Telehealth
Dental Vision
Fitness reimbursement
Wellness programs
SocialAbility to form satisfying
interpersonal relationships
Diversity and inclusion programs/policies
Employee affinity groups
Employee assistance program
Spiritual Ability to experience meaning
and purpose in life through
a connection to one’s self or a power greater than oneself
Holidays
Bereavement leave
Flexible work arrangements

What is a possible approach to communicating your organization’s approach to holistic well-being?

Consider which sounds more compelling to an employee:

“We support your total well-being.”

— or —

“We support your total well-being, including your physical, financial, and personal health.”

The second statement makes the nebulous concept of well-being a little more clear and tangible. Used consistently, alongside actual benefits and programs, each label can trigger employees to think of the comprehensive nature of your offerings and their long-term value. 

Many organizations I’ve served use the labels above (e.g., financial) or one’s similar to them (e.g., money). Here are a few simple steps to finding the right terminology for your organization.

  1. List all your benefits programs, policies, and other offerings. Don’t overlook those ergonomic desks! 
  2. Sort the list by grouping similar items. For example, put health care programs together. Try to create enough distinct, meaningful groups; eliminate empty categories, consolidate nearly empty ones.
  3. Come up with a brief description of each group. 
  4. Give each group a generic name (for now).
  5. To find your final category names, refer to your organization’s brand identity and culture for inspiration. You don’t have to stick with the generic terms (like physical) and you probably want to avoid overly clever and vague terms (like vigor) but, ultimately, you want a clear and distinctive list that makes particular sense within your organization.

Let’s Connect

Are you struggling with articulating a clear and compelling approach to total well-being? Do you have a unique approach of your own? Please share your story with us. If you’d like some help, let’s discuss it over a kale smoothie.

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Working Through a Pandemic (Part 2)

Smith interviews an expert on workplace disease control

Smith Communication Partners can help you navigate the choppy waters and tidal wave of Covid-19 information and messages cascading over your business and employees.

One of Smith’s partner firms is Viven Health which has developed a unique hand hygiene training program that can be effective in protecting your employees from the coronavirus. Viven Health is led by Dr. Tom Ahrens, a research scientist who is an international authority on infectious diseases.  

We sat down with Dr. Tom recently to pose a number of questions we are receiving from clients and contacts about the coronavirus and how best to keep ourselves protected.  In our last communication, we presented a few high-level queries and answers on common coronavirus topics. Today we continue our session (part 1) with Dr. Tom to give you more insights on how to prepare for and deal with the new virus. Look for more updates from Smith in the coming weeks.

How important is it for people who are sick to stay home? We have a culture where people go to work unless they are really sick.

Very important!  There are three common symptoms of Covid 19: fever, cough and shortness of breath. You’re first going to see a fever and maybe body aches, much like a flu. If you have a fever, 100 degrees or higher, you absolutely need to stay home. Even if you have a mild experience, you need to stay home so you don’t infect others. 

Some of the news reports are discouraging people with mild to moderate symptoms from walking into the ER or their doctor’s office. Can telehealth medicine fill the gap here? 

Absolutely. We should be using telehealth enormously now. If you’re having trouble breathing, clearly go to the emergency room. But if your symptoms are manageable, use telehealth first and they will tell you if you need to go to the ER.

Unless you have a preexisting condition or happen to unfortunately be seriously affected, it sounds like COVID-19 is something you’ll be able to manage at home. What do people need to have on hand at home? 

Really, it’s no different than what you need to manage a cold or flu.

Once you get COVID-19, can you get it again?

Like with any virus, we anticipate we will develop an immunity to it. So, if someone is sick now, this coming fall they should have immunity and won’t get it again.

You’ve been talking about cold, flu, pneumonia, sepsis, and other viral and bacterial prevention for years now. It must be frustrating to have a proven method that could have made a difference in stemming the tide, but also hopeful in the sense that employers can have an impact on a go-forward basis.

Employers need to prepare and find ways to mitigate the loss of productivity. This is going to hit them and there is no way around this. I think we have 18 months of COVID-19 to go. This is going to be a long and drawn-out fight. In the meantime, we’ve got to get out and educate people on the best ways to mitigate infection. 

Keep in mind that Smith can help you build and implement your communications strategy around the coronavirus.  For more information, call your usual Smith contact or Don Sanford of Smith’s St. Louis office at 314.348.4687.

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Working Through a Pandemic (Part 1)

Smith interviews an expert on workplace disease control

Smith Communication Partners can help you navigate the choppy waters and tidal wave of Covid-19 information and messages cascading over your business and employees.

One of Smith’s partner firms is Viven Health, which has developed a unique hand hygiene training program that can be effective in protecting your employees from the coronavirus. Viven Health is led by Dr. Tom Ahrens, a research scientist who is an international authority on infectious diseases.  

We sat down with Dr. Tom a few days ago to pose a number of questions we are receiving from clients and contacts about the coronavirus and how best to keep ourselves protected. We present some of the questions and answers here for your information and will post others in the coming days and weeks. This is the first of a two-part interview. 

Dr. Tom Ahrens, thank you for speaking with us. A lot of business continuity plans are focused on weather-related or terrorism-related events, which by nature are isolated to a specific location or region. How do organizations manage a rapidly spreading virus? 

The coronavirus is similar to the flu in how it spreads. It will generally concentrate in populated areas—the more crowded we are, the more likely we are to get an infection. Typically, if you get one of the two common types of flu viruses (type A or type B) you will infect two other people. This year in the United States almost 50 million people will get the flu. What we are seeing with COVID-19 at this early stage is an infection rate of three other people, with a projected infection of 100-150 million people, or one-third to one-half of our population.

Let’s talk about employers whose people can work remotely. Are we at a point where employers should require employees who are able to work remotely to stay home? 

Absolutely. This is the simplest way to control the spread of COVID-19. This isn’t rocket science. If you are close to someone, you are at risk. We want people to avoid crowded train and subway stations. Congregating in tight areas sends your risk level up. 

When those who can work from home do so, they are bringing down the risk level for those who must be present at work to do their job. Look, employers need to figure this out now. COVID-19 is going to be an issue this fall and winter. I think in 30-60 days we’ll see a drop because of warming temperatures but expect the virus to come back with a vengeance this coming fall and winter. 

So, we’re expecting coronavirus to have seasonality? You’re saying it will recede in the summer months and come back in the winter months? 

We’re not absolutely certain, but I think so. We’ll get an idea during the summer by watching the Southern hemisphere. If the virus picks up there during our summer, which is their winter, that will be our answer. 

Now, let’s turn to employers who need their folks on the ground to do their jobs. Healthcare, police, transit, public works, grocery stores, gas stations. What should employers be doing to proactively protect these employees?

It’s all about managing the chain of touchpoints. As much as you can, put a physical barrier between you and your customer. You want to reduce how much the customer can breathe on you. Also, there needs to be very careful handling of money. Let’s say I give you money and you have to handle it; you must keep your fingers out of your mouth, nose and eyes until you sanitize again. Any surface you subsequently touch before you sanitize again should be considered contaminated. But as you know, this applies to the cold, flu, any virus. 

Part 2 of our interview with Dr. Ahrens will be published tomorrow, March 19, 2020.

Keep in mind that Smith can help you build and implement your communications strategy around the coronavirus. For more information, call your usual Smith contact or call Don Sanford of Smith’s St. Louis office at 314.348.4687.

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